Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Treasured Memories . . .

“When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure.”

-         Unknown

I met Dr. Godbole only one more time, for he lived in Mumbai, and I in the U.S. But we communicated regularly by e-mail. He was not in favor of phone calls or “chat,” either. But once in a while when I saw him in my contacts, I couldn’t resist sending him a “hi,” though he never replied!

Dr. Godbole was most certainly a man of few—very, very few—words. But quality and not quantity in what is said tells you that someone cares.

In 2009 the Swine flu was rampant. I was going to Pune. With just a one meeting acquaintance he called me, greatly concerned, and tried to talk me out of going there. He also called to let me know when the movie “Savarkar” was playing on TV. I thought it was so sweet and caring of him.

When I got back to the U.S. we continued to correspond via email. Soon we were comfortable enough for him to give me health tips and weight-loss tips. For a while, though, that went along the lines of the segment mentioned in the last post!

He told me I must walk everywhere (for errands etc.) and use the steps instead of the elevator. Oh dear, I thought to myself. Really, I almost never come across any staircases here. Everywhere I go (and they are not too many places) is on the ground level. And I could, possibly, see myself walking to the grocery store, but who would carry all the groceries on the way back? So that wasn’t going to work.

But, I told him brightly, I shall dance for exercise. I don’t know what he thought of that, but he said it was important that I wear shoes. It was another “oh dear” moment. First thing I do when I begin dancing is to kick off my shoes. The feeling that he was going to think I was an odd one was creeping up on me again.

His next advice threw me right off my stride! “Don’t,” he wrote, “start smoking and drinking in excess!”

Eek! I thought, is that what he thinks of me?!! I laugh to myself when I remember this.

I read my novel over and over and over in the editing phase. And every time I read it I had bitter-sweet moments when I came across the memories of Dr. Godbole captured in it. There were so many scenes where I had reached out to him for help. Savarkar’s conversation with the political prisoners getting amnesty in the Cellular Jail could never have been written had he not given me the historical background and a perspective of the reasoning Savarkar had used. Unfortunately, Savarkar himself has not given the details, so I had really been in a bind. When I was about to write the scene of Keshu’s concussion, I came up with a blank. How were the hospitals in 1921? How did they treat the patients? How were the nurses? Again it was Dr. Godbole who helped me out. Even if I didn’t actually use what I learned in the writing of the scene, it was essential for me to picture the scene in its totality.

When the whole of the Part II was written, I was so emotional that I couldn’t judge it. Dr. Godbole was not doing well at the time. But when I called him and told him of my worries, he asked me to send it over and he would check it for me.

And he did.

It must have been very, very taxing for him. I truly appreciated what he did for me. He gave a very detailed feedback and I was able to polish my novel with it. One point he made was very funny:

I am saying everywhere that I have written true incidents, and have really tried to be authentic. But in some incidents I have given myself some freedom. One such scene was Savarkar and the kids in Savarkar Sadan. While it is true that Savarkar did spend time with his family in the garden, the actual scene is from my imagination. I really enjoyed writing that scene. It was cute, I thought. I threw in a mango tree (using my grandmother’s garden as inspiration.)

Well, in Dr. Godbole’s comments he wrote, “Did Savarkar Sadan have a mango tree?” He really did want me to be authentic!!

I hadn’t any way of knowing what trees were planted there (though I knew from Vishwasrao’s writings there were fruit trees.) Perhaps a mango tree was too much, I thought. So I have now changed it to a peru tree—much easier for a little boy to climb.

Dr. Godbole was not very effusive in his compliments. Sometimes he said “very good,” often though it was just “quite good.” But that was worth so much more to me than fulsome flattery from others. And there are two things he has said to me which are my treasured memories.

He once wrote to me, quite early on, “You belong to the Savarkar family.” I was so very touched. I felt cloaked in a warm envelop of caring. Since my childhood, I have never felt I belonged anywhere—like the “dhobi ka kutta” I always felt “na ghar ka na ghat ka”—always the odd one out. I cried all day that day.

And once he wrote to me, “Oh, so that’s what makes you so unusual.” I really, really treasure that one too. No one had ever said that to me (and only one other, my doctor, since.) I have, of course, had people tell me I am “different,” and “not normal.” No one has, quite, said I am “odd” or “peculiar,” but they have looked it. And so many look at me as if I am an alien being from another planet!

So you see why I hug that one to myself so dearly!

It was Dr. Godbole who always encouraged me to keep writing and working on my novel. In 2010, I went through a very rough patch supporting a friend through her crisis. It was very difficult to focus on the novel then. I turned more and more to translating Savarkar’s poems and doing research for him. Dr. Godbole was the only one who kept me on my toes re the novel through that time.

In 2010 January (23rd or 24th, I think) something in my correspondence with Dr. Godbole touched my nerve. I reacted like a wounded animal—very upset. Dr. Godbole took the trouble to comfort me and console me. He didn’t get upset with me, nor did he say or feel why I was being such a so-and-so. It was a week before he wrote to me next. It was a single-liner saying: he had had a serious operation; he had not told me as he knew I would be upset, but he was now back home recuperating.

I had to read that many times before it sunk in. I had been giving him a headache almost up to the time he went into surgery . . . ! He had been giving me solace and comfort at just a grave juncture in his life, and he was worried about bothering me. I cannot even begin to describe all that I felt then, so I won’t try.

But you do see what a special person he was?

I have come across a Hebrew proverb:

“Say not in grief ‘he is no more,’ but live in thankfulness that he was.”

And I do indeed try to follow that, for I am certainly most thankful that my path did cross that of Dr. Godbole’s. He holds a very special place in my heart.



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